Why is it important for people to participate in systematic physical activity?
It's about quality of life, if you lose sight of that and stop exercising you'll get sick. It's important for children so that they can learn the importance of staying healthy when it comes to standing on their own two feet.
How do you stay motivated to train consistently?
By setting goals and deciding what is most important in life. To stay focused and on track you must decide what the five most important things are to you in life and prioritise them. In doing this you must also accept that you have to sacrifice to achieve these goals. For me staying physically active and staying on my game transfers into everything else that I do in life.
What are your career highlights?
I have many career highlights including my years in the military. I found it challenging when I first joined up but I worked through that and had a fantastic career spanning over ten years.
When I left the military I chose to take on another path and help others improve their quality of life. I want everyone out there who is prepared to listen to have and enjoy a similar quality of life if they are prepared to put in the hard work.
Another highlight is my role on the Biggest Loser as the Commando but it's also what I have gotten from that. It's not just being part of the The Biggest Loser; there are other areas that have come from that like doing corporate talks and working with children and also running the boot camps that I do.
What was your first job?
My very first job, the way I see it was when I wanted a mountain bike when I was a youngster. Rather than my parents just going and buying it for me, my father said "if you want the mountain bike, you'll have to go out and earn the money to pay for it yourself".
I used to do a paper run 3 mornings a week before school and 5 days a week after school. I can't remember how much I was paid - it wasn't very much!
I hated it!
My father calculated that by doing a paper run and riding to school I used to ride around 400 or 500km a week!
What prompted you to pursue a career in the fitness industry?
I've always been physically active, when I was a youngster I remember watching the body builders on the TV screen and thinking 'yeah that's me, I want to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger', then realising that there is a lot that goes into doing that. As much as I enjoy training in the gym, body building isn't exactly what I was looking for. Playing team sports in school and then going to the military which is very physically active, helped. Getting into the fitness industry was about helping people improve their quality of life.
What do you most enjoy about your role on The Biggest Loser?
Seeing the contestants' transformations and how quickly they can do it! We hear criticism from time to time about rapid weight loss but being morbidly obese or overweight is going to kill you faster than losing weight at a rapid pace. There are so many health complications that come with being overweight - the list is endless!
Can you explain what CrossFit is & why it appeals to you?
CrossFit is a methodology that I have embraced; it is the type of training I've been doing my whole life really, but with no absolute direction.
When I found CrossFit it gave me direction and it detailed a little more about what I was doing and gave reasons as to why I was doing it.
This made it a lot easier for me to digest and as a trainer it made it a lot easier for me to impart that knowledge and share with others. Essentially, CrossFit is increasing your work capacity over time regardless of your fitness level.
It is about pushing your individual boundaries and benchmarking against yourself. You are training for the unknown and unknowable.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I'm a bit of a gym junkie so I really like to get out there and do some wild and hairy things, but having a family I don't always get time to do that. I enjoy spending time with my family and enjoying life. I really like training and competing (in CrossFit). That all takes up most of my spare time!
You have a strong 'no excuses' mentality, how do you encourage & help people to overcome their excuses & barriers when it comes to exercise?
Overcoming excuses and barriers relates to the CrossFit methodology and things being relative both physiologically and psychologically. People need to accept responsibility for their health.
It can come across quite direct and pointy but that's what I try to impart on people - that you need to do the best you can with what you have. Some days you'll feel on top of the world and other days you'll feel down in the dumps. When you work around that, you'll see improvements tenfold.
The big thing is consistency, a lot of the lessons are learnt through doing things when the chips are down and you feel like everything is against you. I guess the no excuses principle is about not giving up the fight, always be prepared to fight for what it is that you want.
Please tell us about your family.
I have three children; two daughters and one son and of course a lovely wife. The girls are in preschool and high school and my son is seven months old. It's a young family, it's a challenge, and everyone has their ups and downs. I think I learn as much from my kids as I do from training adults - if not more!
What is your biggest frustration/pet hate?
Resorting back to childlike behaviours and having tantrums.
People need to ask themselves 'hang on, why can't I achieve today like I normally do? Maybe I've had less sleep or worked late and am really tired.'
Don't try and measure yourself up against the last time you did it - you have to weigh up all the factors and not say 'no I can't'. Let's do the best you can with what you have.
Contestants on the Biggest Loser have spent their whole lives making excuses and not being able to control their bodies and all of a sudden they are thrown in the mix and have to stand on their own two feet and become accountable.
It takes a lot of persuasion from the trainers - talks and (for me) getting a little angry. But eventually they come around and eliminate excuses; you have to look for the positives in the negatives.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations?
There are so many people that I have drawn inspiration from but if I was to say one particular person - it would be one of my friends who started as a client. He has cerebral palsy and I was the only one game to take him on and train him - no one knew much about cerebral palsy and how to train someone with it.
I was prepared to take him on but I said 'this is going to be a learning experience for me as much as it's going to be a learning experience for you!' he was appreciative and understanding of that, and we have formed a great friendship and bond outside of the gym.
What he is capable of doing now is 100 times better than when he walked in the door that first day and it is quite humbling. If he can do it, anyone can do it.
He is a 70kg man who struggled to walk and stand on his own two feet, now he can deadlift 180kg and press weights above his head where he once wasn't even able to lift a broom handle. And he can run!
What advice would you give future athletes keen to get the best out of themselves?
Work your weaknesses! Too often I see people who are very gifted but they always work skill sets that are within their comfort zone. You can't dangle your toes in the water, you've got immerse yourself, jump in and be prepared to do the hard work. Work the things that you struggle with the most! That will strengthen and solidify your foundations and you will be a much better, stronger athlete for it.
What are your top 5 tips for a healthy & active family lifestyle?
- Decide what you want most in life, make a list of what is most important to you.
- Figure out what it is you are prepared to do to achieve those goals (or whatever it may be). In doing that, it becomes about the person as a whole and it ties in.
- Nutrition - focus on improving nutritional habits - start somewhere e.g. cutting out starchy foods like bread and cereal and cut out sugar. Sugar is bad news! Nutrition is very straight forward, don't ever be told otherwise.
- Exercise - Walk 3 times a week or increase incidental exercise. Walk instead of driving, instead of sitting around watching TV, get out and go for a walk and enjoy the outdoors.
- Consistency - you have to have consistency to see any level of results. It will not happen overnight; the reward will come with time. You've got to be patient and have discipline and determination to see it through.
Do you think that in every family there needs to be an instigator for exercise & family nutritional habits?
The instigator doesn't have to be the male or female in the household but there will be a natural leader. With children I truly believe that the life's lessons learnt by children are the ones that are unspoken, they are the everyday actions that parents do that rub off on children. It's the way we're tuned. Look at yourself and the way you act and your children are really a mirror of who you are.
Born in Queensland in 1976, Steve Willis had a competitive streak from an early age - cricket, bike riding and in the gym.
Steve served as a Counter Terrorism Team Commander in the Australian Special forces before becoming a coach and CrossFit ambassador.
With a harsh work ethic, Steve is a fierce supporter for the foundations and principals of CrossFit, which specialises in functional movements combined into high intensity, varied workouts to maximise athletic performance.
Steve stands for "knowledge is power; power to perform; power to achieve," and practices what he preaches - with a harsh training and work schedule, Steve Willis has no time for excuses.
He is currently coaching contestants of the 2012 Biggest Loser Australia television series.
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Get Ahead Kids® Mar/Apr 2012